More is being done to help disabled students

21st June 1996 at 01:00
Unfortunately the article on college concerns about the Disability Discrimination Act (FE Focus, TES, June 7) and the possible financial impact of legislation not only gave the wrong impression but created an unnecessarily negative atmosphere.

First, it has been absolutely clear from the moment legislation was drafted that colleges would be included in the legislation in so far as they are employers and they provide services other than education. This was not a loophole.

Besides, why should colleges be excluded when others, even those with severely restrained funding, such as national charities, are included?

In fact, Skill, and all the major disability organisations, as well as many people who work in or attend colleges, were (and are) concerned that any college activities were excluded. After all, colleges are one of the most important gateways to work and opportunities for disabled people, as they are for the rest of the population. Discrimination serves only to exclude some of those who most need education.

Second, colleges will be subject to the same conditions as other employers and service providers. They will only have to take "reasonable" steps. Any access improvements that would create unreasonable burdens would not be required.

The article quotes John Brennan of the Association for Colleges supporting the work colleges do for disabled students.

The AFC and colleges have, in Skill's experience, been support-ive, and no one wants colleges to have unreasonable demands made on them. The current legislation does not do so.

What is needed is for the funding bodies and secretaries of state in every corner of the United Kingdom to help colleges to improve facilities for staff and students by providing colleges with appropriate national policies, guidance and funding mechanisms so that they can continue along the positive path towards more equitable access.

Making the modest but appropriate new legal steps that now exist look like mountainous hurdles does not help.

Deborah Cooper Director Skill (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities) 336 Brixton Road London SW9

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